By Christine Nicolette-Gonzalez

 

It was close to the end of my thirty-third year teaching in May of 2012. Along with the usual challenges, I found myself stepping up to help care for several in my family who were ill. Without my knowing it, the stress from doing this caused my blood pressure to escalate. By the end of the week, I was in a hospital emergency room with stroke-like conditions. Thankfully, I didn’t have a heart attack or stroke, and during the next few weeks I learned that my anxiety had caused my blood pressure spikes. So I spent the summer of 2012 learning how to lower my anxiety and to find health.

One of the first things I did was learn how to knit. I had passed Holley’s Yarn Shoppe on Inwood Road at Forest Lane in Dallas several times, so during the first week of summer break I walked into the shop and had my first knitting class with Susan Wellik, the accomplished shop owner.  

Knitting quickly became one of my favorite activities, and as an added benefit, I finally could make things by hand for the people I loved. What does one usually knit first? A scarf. That year I must have knitted about thirty of them, and I gave them to all my family and friends in the area and even sent many to friends living in other states.

Spreading the Warmth's beginning took root on an icy day in December 2013. That morning I got out my knitted items and realized that I had knitted five scarves and had nobody to give them to. My husband Scott and I were about ready to visit his mom in the hospital. At that moment Something told me to take those extra scarves along with me, and the rest is the miraculous God-thing. On the way to the hospital and back, my husband and I found five very cold people: a young man who stood shivering outside a bus shelter, a middle-aged nurse walking to her car in the hospital parking lot, a one-legged man standing waiting for a bus who I trudged across the snow to get to, a woman walking back home carrying groceries after shopping at Fiesta, and a child who was with her mother and sister walking home from the grocery story. As I gave a handmade scarf to each of them, the words I made this for you came out of my mouth.  Their responses were priceless. At that moment, that scarf was one of the greatest gifts they could receive. And it was a "random act of kindness" that they hopefully will pass on in some form...and the ripple effect will make this world a better place, one scarf at a time.

  Selma, our first knitter!

Selma, our first knitter!

Initially, I only shared this scarf story with my closest friend Janis. But she shared it with her mom and her mom's friends who decided they also wanted to knit scarves for people who needed them.  And at Holley's Yarn Shoppe, the story quickly spread, and many more wanted to join in.  We added Second-Saturday Knit Nights in September of 2014, and they were quickly a big success. By the fall of 2017, just three years after our first Saturday Knit Night, we had a mailing list of over 200 people who received our monthly newsletters, and we had collectively distributed over 3000 scarves to people in the Dallas area and throughout the United States. A Spreading the Warmth club had begun at St. Mark's School of Texas where boys in the middle and upper schools learned to knit; then they distributed their scarves to those in need in the surrounding community. A sister organization was also formed outside of Denver and several people lead the distribution of scarves in often-cold Colorado.

How gratifying it has been to see that in a few years my health challenge was used as a catalyst to form this organization!  We would love to have your help as we continue to grow and spread even more warmth, love, and kindness. If you would like to join us, please e-mail us at  spreadingthewarmth@sbcglobal.net.